EPA: 70,000 Fish Killed

Claims well site fire polluted creek

Wheeling Intelligencer
22 July 2014
By Casey Junkins

HANNIBAL - Water samples of runoff taken shortly a June 28 fire at a Monroe County natural gas drilling site show the presence of many fracking chemicals and resulted in roughly 70,000 dead fish and other aquatic life.

Regulators counted roughly 70,000 dead fish, frogs, crayfish, salamanders and other aquatic after the accident at the Statoil Eisenbarth well pad. Environmental Protection Agency documents state tests show the presence of benzene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, toluene, and pyrene - all chemicals commonly used during well fracking.

"It is a significant incident," said, Bethany McCorkle, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the permitting and spacing of natural gas wells in the Buckeye State. "However, our investigation is not yet complete."

"I went to the site myself to take some photos," said Nathan Johnson, an attorney representing the Ohio Environmental Council. "There are lots of dead bluegill, smallmouth bass and minnows. I couldn't walk without stepping on a dead minnow."

The EPA report shows water readings in Opossum Creek have since returned to normal, while regulators found no pollution or dead fish in the Ohio River.

Upon reporting to the scene June 28, federal regulators reported numerous fires were observed across the well pad and a well head was observed releasing flowback water.

The EPA report states Statoil hired international oilfield services giant Halliburton to drill and frack at the Eisenbarth pad. McCorkle said Halliburton and Statoil promptly provided information regarding the chemicals on-site.

"We asked for the reports June 30 and got them June 30," she said.

McCorkle said the fire appeared to begin when a hose malfunctioned in the middle of a fracking job. The fire spread to a total of 20 trucks.

She said no workers or residents reported injuries, but about 20 homes living near the well evacuated as a precautionary measure.

"Statoil takes its environmental obligations very seriously, and we will continue to work with our partners in the unified command to ensure the environmental implications from this incident are effectively addressed," Statoil Emergency Response Coordinator Nick Benson said.

Air sampling and analysis results have shown there are no hazards to health. Air monitoring will continue until emergency operations are completed, he added.